Sunday, July 10, 2005

Isa: Restaurant Review


Much as I complain about the Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurant list, I can't help but want to try every restaurant on the list, just to be sure. The Chronicle has been raving about Isa for years and chef Luke Sung was twice nominated as a rising star chef by the James Beard Foundation. So it's always been in the back of my mind to try it. A few weeks back dining out with Lee and my folks, we decided to give it a whirl.

I should start out by saying that Isa is a small plate restaurant. Much like Chez Nous the menu is Mediterranean though perhaps slanted towards French. While a casual place with a large heated patio it feels festive and modern, a great place for a birthday dinner or intimate celebration.

One of our first dishes was a Sauteed Local Calamari which was served with braised fennel, olive, parsley, bread crumbs. It was so succulent and tender. If you go to the store it's hard to find local fresh calamari, what you get is frozen and never as good as this was. Continuing with the seafood theme, we had the Seared Dayboat Scallops served with baby artichokes, tomatoes, olives and basil. It was perhaps one of the smallest portions but the scallops were soft, sweet and perfectly cooked. The Potato Wrapped Seabass with a brown butter, capers, lemon and parsley sauce was the least successful dish. While tasty, the tangy capers overwhelmed the delicate fish.

We also had Seared Foie Gras with cherries, port and a custard brioche. It was decadent and rich as you might expect. Almost dessert-like. It's worth mentioning that each sauce was distinct and bread sopping good. Rounding off the meal, the Tortiglioni Pasta with crushed black truffles, tomato, basil and parmesan was one of my favorite dishes, a wonderful balance of earthy flavors. I was glad we ordered two orders of it. But by that point none of us had room for dessert.

The restaurant recommends that you order two or three dishes per person. Two dishes seemed plenty to us. The prices range from $9-$18 per dish, though soups, salads and vegetable side dishes are a little bit less ($6-$8). Each dish varies in size so if you have more than two people sharing a dish you may want to consider ordering two of the same thing. You can share lots of dishes and you will enjoy a meal much like at the French Laundry with just a few divine bites each or pick a couple dishes for yourself. Either way you are sure to have a great meal.

During the week, Monday through Thursday before 7:00 pm you can order three dishes (not everything on the menu is available) for $22.25.

Isa
3324 Steiner St @ Chestnut
San Francisco
415.567.9588 (reservations recommended)
Mon - Thurs 5 - 10 pm
Fri & Sat 5 - 10:30 pm